Houston AC 800x485

The Widest Influence for Good: One Alumnae Chapter’s Story

Category: Foundation

Bailyn Dupont

Eta Phi, Belmont

As the recipient of the Alumnae Chapter Founders Award at Grand Convention 2022, the Houston Alumnae Chapter was given the opportunity to apply for and utilize the Alumnae Chapter Founders Award Named Grant Endowment Fund to facilitate a service project of their choosing. In line with their previous service projects, the chapter was looking for an opportunity that would positively affect the youth of their city.

Their executive board ultimately landed on Small Steps Nurturing Center, a local center for early childhood education, as the beneficiary of this project. Small Steps offers educational, social, and emotional support to youth affected by poverty by providing a nurturing environment, transportation, and nutritious meals for 195 children ages two through six. This was the first time the chapter has partnered with Small Steps. Together, they created the Boxes of Blessing project.

The goal of the project was to provide 60 boxes of essential food items to families in the Small Steps program during the holiday season. According to Small Steps, 53% of the population in their area is below the poverty line, with a median income of $23,000. This is less than half the median income for the entire city of Houston. When public schools are in session, they provide breakfast, lunch, and a snack for these students, all of whom qualify for free meals through the National School Lunch Program. During the holidays when students are on break, families, particularly low-income families, often struggle to replace these meals. The boxes provided to these families by the Houston Alumnae Chapter and Small Steps helped bridge that gap.

Pictured are eight members of the Houston Alumnae Chapter sorting groceries for the Small Steps Boxes of Blessings food drive: Katy Kaminski Bate, Beta/Indiana; Louise Halberstadt Symmes, Beta Rho/~; Laurie Strawman Dorfman, Beta Sigma/SMU; Dinah Hampton McClymonds, Gamma Gamma/Rollins; Maura Aiken McCarthy, Beta Tau/Denison; Nancy Sellingsloh Bertin, Alpha Theta/Texas; Linda Little Brown, Delta Omega/Texas A&M; and Ann Snodgrass, Alpha Theta/Texas.
Thirty Thetas volunteered to load large shopping bags with food items for families in need.
The coordinated effort took place at a local church alongside the supportive staff of Small Steps.

Volunteers from the alumnae chapter dedicated their time and energy to organizing and packaging food items for these families. This opportunity was not just about the physical task of packing the boxes, but also about making a meaningful difference in the lives of families during a season that often amplifies the hardships faced by those living below the poverty line. More than a mere distribution of food, it was a testament to the chapter's commitment to fostering a deeper understanding among its members of the significant challenges and inequities within their own community. By engaging directly with Small Steps, the chapter illuminated a path of action for its members, showcasing the profound impact of their collective efforts.

Before this project, many members were unaware of the possibilities that Theta Foundation's grants program could unlock. This experience has not only enlightened them to the potential for impactful community service, but also reinforced the enduring value of their Theta membership. It’s clear now, more than ever, that the choices made during their college years continue to resonate through their actions today, enriching their lives and the lives of those around them.

The success of this project, made possible by the generosity of Mary Ellen Fitzsimonds, Beta Kappa/Drake, and the support of Theta Foundation, has deeply affected all who participated. It stands as a powerful reminder of the difference one group can make when united by a common purpose, and it has undoubtedly strengthened the bond within the Houston Alumnae Chapter, inspiring further acts of kindness and service.